Your survivor benefit amount would be based on the earnings of the person who died. The more he or she paid into Social Security, the higher your benefits would be.

The monthly amount you would get is a percentage of the deceased's basic Social Security benefit. It depends on your age and the type of benefit you would be eligible to receive.

Note: If the person who died was receiving reduced benefits, we base your survivor's benefit on that amount.

The maximum survivors benefit amount is limited to what he or she would receive if they were still alive.

These are examples of the benefits that survivors may receive:

  • Widow or widower, full retirement age or older -- 100 percent of the deceased worker's benefit amount;
  • Widow or widower, age 60 -- full retirement age -- 71½ to 99 percent of the deceased worker's basic amount;
  • Disabled widow or widower aged 50 through 59 -- 71½ percent;
  • Widow or widower, any age, caring for a child under age 16 -- 75 percent.
  • A child under age 18 (19 if still in elementary or secondary school) or disabled -- 75 percent.
  • Dependent parent(s) of the deceased worker, age 62 or older:
    • One surviving parent -- 82½ percent.
    • Two surviving parents -- 75 percent to each parent.

Percentages for a surviving divorced widow or widower would be the same as above.

There may also be a special lump-sum death benefit.

Maximum Family Amount

There's a limit to the amount that family members can receive each month. The limit varies, but it is generally equal to about 150 to 180 percent of the basic benefit rate.

If the sum of the benefits payable to family members is greater than this limit, the benefits will be reduced proportionately. (Any benefits paid to a surviving divorced spouse based on disability or age won't count toward this maximum amount.)

Note: Although you can use our benefit calculators to see how much your survivors could receive on your record, you cannot use them to calculate your potential benefits on someone else's record.

You need to contact your local Social Security office or call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213, (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to learn how much you could receive on the other record.

Other Things You Need To Know

  • There are limits on how much survivors may earn while they receive benefits.

  • Benefits for a widow, widower or surviving divorced spouse may be affected by several additional factors:

    If you remarry

    If you remarry before you reach age 60 (age 50 if disabled), you cannot receive benefits as a surviving spouse while you are married.

    If you remarry after you reach age 60 (age 50 if disabled), you will continue to qualify for benefits on your deceased spouse's Social Security record.

    However, if your current spouse is a Social Security beneficiary, you may want to apply for spouse's benefits on his or her record. If that amount is more than your widow's or widower's benefit, you will receive a combination of benefits that equals the higher amount.

    If you are eligible for retirement benefits on your own record

    If you receive benefits as a widow or widower or as a surviving divorced spouse, you can switch to your own retirement benefit as early as age 62. This assumes you are eligible for retirement benefits and your retirement rate is higher than your rate as a widow, widower or surviving divorced spouse.

    In many cases, a widow or widower can begin receiving one benefit at a reduced rate and then, at full retirement age, switch to the other benefit at an unreduced rate.

    Reminder: Full retirement age for retirement benefits may not match full retirement age for survivors benefits.

    If you will receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security

    If you will also receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security, such as government or foreign work, your Social Security benefits as a survivor may be affected.

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